WWE – TLC 2016 (Cert 15)
1 Disc Blu-ray / DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 160 minutes approx.
With the WWE roster now split in two, the annual stunt fest that is TLC goes to the blue brand, with RAW having claimed the Hell In A Cell gimmick to themselves. This is actually the third SD only PPV since the split after Backlash and No Mercy but the first to get a UK home video release.
Despite a comparatively depleted roster this was a strong show with a tremendous effort put in by everybody (well, almost) especially in the main matches. Most of the matches were designed to blow off feuds or provide a pivotal next step and saw many of the wrestlers take advantage of this opportunity.
One major difference between RAW and SD is in how feuding wrestlers are booked. On RAW they face off in some permutation of a single/tag/multi-man match every week until the PPV, by which time we’ve seen it a 100 times already; on SD, they use the time to build the feuds up, keeping the interaction to promos and run ins, with only the occasional match, thus we actually have something to look forward to.
This show took place on December 4, 2016, at the American Airlines Centre in Dallas, Texas in front of 12,500 fans. Your commentators are the rather excessive quartet of Mauro Ranallo, JBL, David Otunga and Tom Phillips.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers but plenty of opinion.
Smackdown Tag Title Match – Heath Slater & Rhyno (c) vs. Randy Orton & Bray Wyatt
This was the shortest match on the show and really could have been done on SD. Slater and Rhyno became the unlikely tag champs after winning the tag team tournament in a cute Cinderella story based on Slater needing to feed his many kids.
But why is Orton with Bray Wyatt? After feuding with Wyatt and being outnumbered, Orton decided “If you can’t beat them, join them” and turned on Kane during a brawl against the Wyatt family. Yet the fans still cheer Orton so go figure. Honestly, nothing to see here.
No DQ Match – Nikki Bella vs. Carmella
Carmella was brought up from NXT in the draft but was still in need of more seasoning. Despite being part of the Enzo & Cass gimmick in NXT Carmela would be met with silence on SD and with Nikki getting a huge face pop on her return, they decided to switch roles. Carmella attacked Nikki on her first SD back from injury and they have traded ambushes ever since.
They had their work cut out for them as just a few days earlier Charlotte and Sasha banks had an awesome Falls Count Anywhere match on RAW, so this was definitely in the shadow of that. It was a solid brawl with some stiff shots and bumps taken equally but with an anti-climactic finish. However, Carmella had a post-match bombshell to drop on Nikki.
WWE IC Title Ladder Match – The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Build as he final chapter in their rivalry that saw Ziggler put his career on the line at No Mercy and defeat The Miz for the IC title only for Miz to win it back a few weeks later, this was a slightly different ladder match in that the pacing was more deliberate and less spotty. The story was more about doing damage to the other guy instead of just taking silly bumps, throwing in some innovative ground based spots using the ladder.
Because the psychology and lay out was different this seemed slower than other ladder matches but they picked it up in the closing minutes as desperation set in, rounding off a well told story in an emotional feud via this brutal affair.
Chairs Match – Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin
Arguably the weakest gimmick in this line-up with a history of bad or underwhelming matches in its canon, these two actually surpassed all expectations in theirs. Perhaps it was the big man-little man dichotomy that helped, with Kalisto flying all over the place and Corbin using his size and power to wear him down.
This is a feud that has been brewing for a while but was sidelined when Kalisto was injured over the summer and resumed when he got back. Corbin interfered in Kalisto’s match at Survivor Series and this was revenge time for the masked Luchador. Quite a few painful looking bumps were taken by both men in this match, which boasts Corbin’s best performance by far.
Smackdown Women’s Title Tables Match – Becky Lynch (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
Another feud that has been building for a while, Bliss was due to face Lynch at No Mercy but Becky was hospitalised. They had their title match in Scotland and while Becky won, Bliss had her foot under the ropes and demanded rematch. At the contract signing the ladies fought with Becky being put through the table, hence the stipulation.
Of course, with the winner being the one to put the other through the table, the loser can claim to not have been pinned, making it a pyrrhic victory. The match was also built around the different psychology of wearing each other down before getting the tables, but I thought they told a good story with plenty of dramatic moments towards the end and some hard bumps taken to boot.
WWE World Title TLC Match – AJ Styles (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
It is clear if AJ Styles is only staying with WWE for three years then he is making every second count as I cannot fathom another reason why he continues to take so much punishment at 39 years old. As is his current remit, Styles is going above and beyond in big matches to make sure he lives up to his “Phenomenal” epithet and this is another match in which he does just that.
Since the constituent elements of this match have already occurred earlier in the show, it has always been hard to keep the audience’s attention and be creative when combining them for the main event, yet Styles and Ambrose manage to do just that. A ridiculous amount of punishment is doled out here although for many, the big story is AJ’s tights ripping just above his backside! Great way to top off a great show.
Smackdown has already been posited as the secondary flagship show in WWE’s TV line-up yet since the draft has proven to be the most consistent and entertaining of the two. This might be due to having just two hours to work with so they have less room to run all their angles, but this allows them to breath and develop while RAW rushes through everything.
This also applies to the PPVs which never exceed the 3 hour run time unlike RAW’s, preventing them from dragging and suffering from wasteful filler promo segments. One look at the line-up on this card also shows us that SD is willing to give new faces a chance – had he rosters stayed the same you’d never have seen Carmella, Alexa Bliss, Heath Slater or Baron Corbin working prime slot matches.
I suppose what I am saying is that the SD roster should not be underestimated and while RAW gets the red carpet treatment, the blue brand is more than capable of living up to its hype and delivering the goods on PPV. We come out this particular show with a sense of curiosity as to what is going to happen next as opposed to groaning about the same old faces going over or rolling our eyes at the booking.
Best Match – AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose
TLC Kickoff Match – Apollo Crews, American Alpha & Hype Bros vs. Curt Hawkins, The Vaudevillains & The Ascension
Smackdown Live – 22nd November 2016
IC Title Match – The Miz (c) vs. Kalisto
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
Smackdown Live – 29th November 2016
No 1. Contenders Match For The Smackdown Tag Titles – American Alpha vs. Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton
Rating – ***
Man In Black